I know coping statements work. I use them in my daily life.
And positive affirmations are a form of coping statement that reinforces a belief or moves me in the direction of owning that belief or feeling.
Some of my go-to coping statements are:
- Stop, and breathe, I can do this
- This will pass
- I can be anxious/angry/sad and still deal with this
- I have done this before, and I can do it again
- This feels bad, it is a normal body reaction. It will pass.
What is the definition of a Coping Statement?
Coping statements are truthful positive statements used to replace the negative and untrue thoughts that take-over when you feel anxious, stressed, angry, and/or when facing other overwhelming situations.
“I have depression, depression does not have me.”
This positive coping statement is one I have used for the past 17 months. It helps me understand my relationship with depression. I can say out loud that I have depression. For 43+ years, I did not know, or even WANT to know that I had a major depressive disorder.
So, even when I thought this might be the case, I would NOT SAY IT OUTLOUD.
If I did not say I had depression, then I must not have it. It was, in my mind, as simple as that. I did not need to write down coping statements that I could refer to when the going got tough. I was a survivor. Even more, I am the FIXER.
And the fixer is always in control. He is always on guard, ready at a moment’s notice to jump in and solve the problem, right the wrong, and save the day. Then after a hearty handshake, I am back on guard for the next situation that needs fixing.
I see now how tiring and draining this has been.
Now as I think about the best and proven, time-tested coping statements for anxiety and depression, I see many right answers. The truth is, any coping statement that works for you, Is the right one. And even for me, I will use one today, and tomorrow, in a similar situation, I will use a completely different coping statement.
This does not make the coping statement I used yesterday wrong.
In fact, they both are right. Each provided me a way to cope and to handle a situation and feel less stress. What works today, may still work tomorrow. “I have depression, depression does not have me” has been working for over 17 months. But somedays “this will pass” is not enough and I need to go to my list of 101 coping statements to find one I can use to replace a negative or untruthful thought.
For each of use, a proven coping statement might look different.
And believe me, that is OK. As much as I like a little competition, this is not an area where I see any competitive edge. Just knowing that there are coping statements out there that will replace my unhelpful thinking keeps me going.
The whole idea of a coping statement is to replace the thoughts that are in your head that are untrue.
Here is how it often goes for me.
- It starts out very innocently
- First, I have a negative and untrue thought
- “I am an imposter; I don’t know anything”
- This thought may pop into my head when I am asked a question.
- This thought makes me stop and question myself.
- And when I see there are things I do not know; I begin to get anxious.
- When I start to get anxious, my mind can race down any rabbit hole I can find.
- I think, almost in an instant that “I don’t want to let anyone down,”
- And I think that “I must know it all.”
- Then it’s something like “I don’t want to be seen as not having the answer”
- So, this leads to me finally saying to myself “I don’t want to be seen as an imposter.”
- This then fuels additional stress
- Then in fly negative and untrue statements such as “maybe this is true, maybe I am don’t know what I am doing.”
- In the end, this often leads to my feeling overwhelmed.
What a stinking mess.
And I would go through these dozens of times each day. Some days, I could go through 100 of these negative thoughts before lunchtime. What a waste of time and energy.
Finding out that there are proven coping statements for my depression and anxiety have made my life simpler.
Now, this has not necessarily stopped me from having these negative thoughts. Oh, believe me, they are still around. But now I recognize them. Well, most of the time. In fact, there are times when I can see that what I just said was unhelpful thinking and a negative thought even as the words are coming out of my mouth.
Usually, I can see what is happening within minutes, or hours. Then I pull out one or two of my proven coping statements and focus on those, replacing the negative and untrue thought.
- “Would an average person see this as truth?”
- “Are there other ways to look at this?”
- “Can I think of reasons why this would not be true?”
Just by asking better questions, I can often see that what I am anxious about is an untrue thought.
In fact, asking ANY QUESTIONS about these negative and untrue thoughts will change the dynamic in my head. Then I can slow down and begin to see that I can replace the negative and untrue thought with a positive coping statement.
My homework for tomorrow’s therapy session is to write down everything that comes to mind when I think of the word FIXER. I used that a lot in our last session and I seem to be fixated on being the fixer.
- Make it right
- Don’t let anyone down
- Be responsible
- Be ready
- Never let your guard down
- Know it all
- Never let them see you sweat
- Fake it ‘til you make it
- Be at the ready
- Be ready always
- I must know it all
- I must be seen as competent
- I must know or they will find out I’m an imposter
- The Go-To Guy
- Must-Know everything
- I don’t want to be seen as not knowing
- I don’t want to be seen as not having the answer I don’t want to be seen as an imposter
Scanning from top to bottom, I can see how my thoughts began in a positive way. But by the time I got to writing the last thoughts, I was clearly in a negative space. Imposter syndrome stands out. I must know more, have one more credential, take one more course, etc.
In the hospital, the lead Psychiatrist asked me “when will enough be enough?
Using positive coping statements can help me turn this around. My choice of coping statements is what works for me. And what works for you will almost assuredly be different. But that is OK.
Again, my mantra is “I have depression, depression does not have me.”
This works because it is true. It replaces untrue thoughts such as “it’s all in my head” or “I can snap out of it if I try harder.” Depression does not work that way. And beating myself up over having depression is not productive.
I am looking at myself with more compassion these days, even though that is not easy. I hope you too will take it easy on yourself. Pick out a few positive coping statements you can use and give it a try. It is working for me.